Vicente Morris focused on recruiting new officers when he took over in December as Pittsfield’s police chief. His department now is fully staffed with seven full-time officers. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

PITTSFIELD — Police Chief Vicente Morris has only been on the job a couple of months but he’s already reached one milestone: His department is at full force after at least a couple of years of being chronically understaffed.

When the 48-year-old Morris came aboard in December, following final approval from the Town Council, he had just three full-time officers on the force. There now are seven, which may speak to Morris’ ability as a recruiter.

“I started pulling from the crop of people that I’ve known over the years, local police chiefs and others,” he said in explaining how he learned of officers who were looking for a new job opportunity.

When he spoke with potential candidates, his pitch was simple and to the point: “We’re going to make Pittsfield the most professional department around, and I said I was hoping they’d join me on this journey.”

The Police Department had long struggled with staffing, with officers expressing concerns about safety on the job. The town had been unable to attract candidates even as the council approved additional vacation time for officers and offered bonuses.

But Morris said Tuesday that he was able to hire additional officers without using the money set aside for bonuses, and the latest hire started work Monday.


“The good thing is I didn’t have to spend any of our special money set aside for bonuses to attract officers,” Morris said. “So I was able to attract good quality staff without having to cost the taxpayers more money.”

He said signing bonuses can be an effective recruiting method, but it also raises concerns that an applicant might be more drawn to the cash grab than to a long-term commitment to protect and serve a community.

Pittsfield police Chief Vicente Morris, seen Tuesday in his office at the police station at 112 Somerset Ave., says he has several programs for community policing that he would like to roll out in the coming months. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Morris comes to Pittsfield after retiring from the Augusta Police Department, where he worked for 21 years in a variety of roles from patrolman to tactical team commander.

He said he always wanted to be a cop and while it can sound cliché, he was driven to help people. Growing up in California, however, there was a height requirement for police officers and at 5-foot-7 he didn’t meet it. So he decided to join the U.S. Army, where he worked as a medic.

Working in the emergency room at Fort Campbell, the Army base that straddles the Kentucky/Tennessee border, where he treated people who were victims of domestic violence, brought him back to becoming a cop.

“I was helping out in that role, but I truly wanted to transition myself to a role where I’m able to prevent some of this from happening, before it gets to the injuries and receiving medical care,” Morris said.


Through his work in the Army, Morris traveled to Germany, Bosnia and other places across the globe. But he eventually settled in Maine, where his wife grew up.

Although he still isn’t used to the snow, Morris said Maine is an ideal place to raise a family. He said prioritizing quality time with family is important for any police officer, and that taking time off to de-stress is key to providing quality policing.

“I’ve traveled all over the world and by far Maine is the best place I found to raise your kids,” Morris said.

Community engagement is a key focus for Morris, and he has ideas for programs that he hopes to roll out in the coming months. He has already started a free salt and sand program for senior citizens in town. A local business, Walpole Outdoors, donated buckets for the cause and Public Works supplies the salt and sand, so after a storm or cold snap residents can call and request a bucket of salt and an officer will deliver it.

He had plans in place for a car wash last week but was foiled by the weather. He partnered with a local car wash and was planning to donate the proceeds to heating assistance. Other ideas he’s considering is a weeklong summer camp for children.

And he is working to review department procedures and policies to ensure that officers are meeting all relevant standards.

Morris said he still feels like he is settling in, but the response from the community has been largely positive. He said he wants residents to know that they have a fully functioning Police Department.

“We’re here ready to serve and protect, and I’m going to ensure that they are going to get the best professional product that we can put out,” Morris said.

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